The Dubai-based author Marijean Boueri is on a mission to educate children around the world, not only about the culture of her native Lebanon but the broader region too. Her first book Lebanon 1-2-3: A Counting Book in Three Languages was published in 2005, followed by Lebanon A-Z: A Middle Eastern Mosaic in 2006.
Tell us about your forthcoming philosophical book.
I'm working on another book, which is completely different to anything I've written before. I can't say too much, but it explores the topic of identities and if we really need them or whether we believe them fully. It's for adults and is more akin to a Jonathan Livingston Seagull type of experience.
How did the trilingual Lebanese series come about?
In 1997, we were living in Lebanon and whenever we returned to the US, people had a lot of questions for us; about the country, our way of life and whether it was just like the headlines in the news, which weren't very positive at the time.
So the books were a way for us to explain the story of our extended family life, portraying things as simple as how we would all gather together for a big meal on a Sunday; focusing firmly on food, family and fun. As it turned out, people who read it in the States said: "Boy, I wish we had that kind of time!" Lebanon 1-2-3 specifically is a counting book in three languages; English, French and Arabic. It was well-reviewed in the School Library Journal in the US and the respected Lebanese artist Mona Trad Dabaji did the illustrations.
Walk me through the reading experience for a child.
Well with 1-2-3, for example, the number one is represented with a vibrant illustration accompanied by the following text: "One old house with a retiled roof, one balcony broad and breezy" in English, French and Arabic - alongside the Roman and Arabic numerals.
How does Lebanon A-Z differ?
The book goes through the alphabet, starting with A where we learn that the Phoenicians disseminated the alphabet to the Western world. The artwork from this book is beautiful and was picked up by the Meridian International Centre in Washington DC, travelling to 12 museums across America.
What has been the response from children?
Oh, fabulous! And it's been terrific for the expatriate community in the US and Lebanon, too. The books are not just targeted at Arab families. The three languages simply provide a realistic, diversified and appreciative look at Lebanon and Lebanese culture.
Boueri's books are available across the UAE. For more information go to www.marijean-boueri.com
• A counting book in English, French & Arabic
• Published September 2005
• 32 pages of text and full-colour paintings
• Illustrations by the Lebanese artist Mona Trad Dabaji
• Describes days spent in the Lebanese mountains "en grande famille"
• Book promotes the family and cultural traditions of Lebanon
Lebanon A-Z: A Middle Eastern Mosaic
• Published February 2006
• Illustrated by Tatiana Sabbagh
• Book explores the heritage, geography, culture and people of Lebanon
• The main characters and siblings Karim and Amal are its narrators
• A lively Phoenician icon zips along the pages sharing interesting facts